Google’s New Privacy Policy: 5 Ways to Minimize Your Online Exposure

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Google just rolled out a streamlined privacy policy that consolidates your personal information for use across various Google-owned services. Despite some criticism and accusations of an Orwellian Big Brother scenario, the updated policy’s goal, says Google, is “to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience.”

(MORE: The Basics Behind Google’s New Privacy Policies)

There’s no denying that the new policy doesn’t make it any easier to stay off the digital grid, so here are some things you can do to minimize what Google knows about you.

1. Disable automatic log-in. If you’re perpetually logged into your Google account, you might have enabled a password-storing feature in your browser, or at some point selected the Google Accounts option to stay signed in. On the Accounts Preferences page, you can disable this feature. If you still seem to be automatically signed in each time you surf the web, you can go into your browser’s privacy settings and clear all cache and cookies.

2Opt out of ads based on interests and demographics. On Google’s Ad Preferences page, you can edit or remove the interests Google has determined for you or opt out entirely. You can also find mild entertainment (and, if you’re an optimist, relief) in the fact that Google’s inferred demographic information about you is often wildly incorrect.

3. Use an anonymizing tool. Companies like Anonymizer offer a variety of services to keep your personal information secure by routing all your online activity  through an encrypted tunnel. A yearly subscription costs $79.99, though the company does offer a free two-week trial and a 30-day money back guarantee. There are also free alternatives like TOR.

(PHOTOS: A History of Google Doodles)

4. Enable private browsing mode. Most browsers feature a “private” mode, where any online activity won’t be tracked. (If you haven’t yet abandoned all Google products, the company’s Chrome web browser offers “incognito mode.”) This means the browser will not store search history or cookies, which house data such as sites you visit, preferences and login information. According to Google, this method is particularly useful “if you’re planning a surprise birthday present or party,” but it could also help keep your information off the record.

5. Turn to resources other than Google. It’s tough to imagine, but there ARE search engines and other mobile and web services completely unaffiliated with Google. Ixquick, for example, calls itself “the world’s most private search engine.” DuckDuckGo also vows it “does not collect or share personal information. That is our privacy policy in a nutshell.” And if you’re skeptical about Gmail, there are always plenty of email alternatives, though your kids or coworkers might mock you for using outdated providers.

Above all, be aware and educate yourself. If you’re still fearful or at least a bit dubious about Google’s privacy policy, you can read the complete text here.

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